Trust in Asia Pacific, Middle East and… for the First Time… Africa

In the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer, Asia Pacific and the Middle East remain the optimistic and trusting regions, even if our new market to the study, South Africa, looks more skeptical and “European” in its trust profile. Overall, trust in the regions has gone up marginally this year, though that was largely driven by a noticeable increase in trust in NGOs.

As always, there is no such country as Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa (let alone Asia Pacific) and the trust scores for the four institutions vary hugely in each market. For example, only 17 percent of informed publics in South Africa say they trust the government to “do what is right.” The other big loser this year is the government of Hong Kong, which plunged 18 points, showing the impact of a series of high profile scandals involving senior government officials and rising concerns over a lack of direction on issues relating to universal suffrage.

Two other government winners include Japan where the administration of Prime Minister Abe and perhaps his “Abenomics” gets a 13-point thumbs up; and Australia, where the lack of Gillard and Rudd and the arrival of Abbott also scores a 13-point trust increase.

APACMEA remains the most trusting region for business, no doubt driven by the economic benefits it has brought in one generation to millions of people. Six of the top seven most trusting countries for business are in APACMEA with UAE and Indonesia business posting significant gains and leading the world with 82 percent of informed publics trusting the institution in both markets.

However, and as reported in November last year in our Emerging Market Supplement to the Trust Barometer, the rest of the world does not trust businesses headquartered in our biggest markets. Chinese and Indian businesses are trusted by only 36 percent and 35 percent (respectively) of people in developed economies compared to the 76 percent a

nd 82 percent they score at home. And this situation has not improved for five years, spelling problems for exports and any corporate global ambitions for our biggest firms.

The region is also different to the rest of the world in the trust it confers on various types of business. In Europe and North America, family businesses are the most trusted, at 76 percent and 85 percent respectively, whilst in APACMEA they are the least trusted. Family businesses that are seen to have strong values in the west are perhaps seen as nepotistic and sometimes even corrupt in APACMEA; and conversely a publicly traded business appears to be conferred with the benefits of transparency and global business practice – and are probably viewed as a much better place to pursue a career – and so score the highest at 74 percent.

NGOs increased their trust score in eight of the 10 APACMEA markets we have trend data for. There were some spectacular gains, notably in the UAE at 9 points, possibly due to the NGO-led debate around working conditions for guest workers and the ongoing work of locally-grown and long-established NGOs like the Red Crescent that have arisen off the back of conflict in Syria. In most APACMEA markets, we believe that people are scoring local and community organizations that provide medical (including environmental protection linked to health issues), educational and poverty relief and support, rather than western-activist style political and environmental NGOs. Japan remains an outlier in the region with only 37 percent trusting NGOs, probably still due to the scandals that emerged in the wake of the Tsunami and the resulting relief effort.

However, in most markets, trust in NGOs is at such a level this year that engagement with them would seem to be a pre-requisite for just about all businesses looking to build their own trust and standing.

For more information about this year’s Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa results, please email

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